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Fantasy Team Preview: Chargers
Overall outlook: It’s been three years since San Diego reached the playoffs. Prior to that drought, the Chargers had a string of four-straight AFC West titles. Reasons for this slump include: Norv Turner, A.J. Smith, Nate Kaeding, and probably Tim Tebow. However, the biggest reason is really the curse of LaDainain Tomlinson. I say “curse” because in 2009, LT’s last season in SD, the team ranked 31st in rushing (1,423 yards) and finished 15th the following season (1,810 yards). So, while statistically they were better running the ball, clearly the loss of the record holder for rushing touchdowns has put a hex on his former team. Maybe it’s time to retire that jersey.
Bye week: 8
Quarterback: Philip Rivers
Rivers threw 99.8 percent of San Diego’s passes last season (Danario Alexander had one passing attempt), so it’s understandable to place whatever blame you want on his shoulders for his team’s lack of success. It was the first time in five years that Rivers didn’t throw for over 4,000 yards. Also, his 13 fumbles were almost double from the season before. But, there’s hope on the horizon now that Ken Whisenhunt is running the offense. Coach Whis' was the offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh during Super Bowl XL and the head coach for Arizona's Super Bowl XLIII squad. His range of working with rookies like Ben Roethlisberger and veterans like Kurt Warner should translate well when working with the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
Running back: Ryan Mathews
For the past three years, Mathews’ name has been synonymous with “sleeper” and “injure-prone.” Fantasy owners either draft him, hoping that Mathews will be the 1,200-yard back people are expecting, or owners avoid him because of the two broken collar bones he's sustained in the first three-years of his career. One rushing TD in 184 attempts isn’t great for his stock either. The running back pool is shallow in 2013. Mathews is an RB2, at best.
Running back: Danny Woodhead
When Ryan Mathews eventually gets hurt (that seems a bit harsh), Woodhead could be the first option to start. Last year with New England, the 5-foot-8, 200-pound back averaged four yards per carry and scored four rushing TDs. As a receiver, Woodhead set career-highs in receptions (40), yards (446), and TDs (three). He’s a solid option in your PPR league.
Running back: Ronnie Brown
The last time Brown was fantasy-relevant, he was teaming up with Ricky Williams in Miami. Since leaving South Beach in 2011, Brown has carried the ball less than 50 times per season and scored one touchdown. Even when Ryan Mathews was sidelined, it was Jackie Battle (now with the Tennessee Titans) who emerged as the starter for San Diego.
Wide receiver: Malcom Floyd
With the injury to Danario Alexander, Floyd is now projected as the No. 1 receiver for the Chargers. Like Ryan Mathews, Floyd has an injury history as well. Ankle problems have hampered his receiving career. He’s never caught more than 56 passes in a season, but he did lead San Diego in targets, receptions, and yards.
Wide receiver: Danario Alexander
*Tore his ACL in practice and will be out for the entire 2013 season*
Wide receiver: Vincent Brown
A broken ankle during the preseason last year caused Brown to miss 2012. In 2011, he made 19 receptions for 329 yards and two scores in his rookie campaign. Rivers will likely spread the wealth until he finds a reliable target. Brown could be a decent flier in late rounds of your draft.
Wide receiver: Robert Meachem
In his first year with San Diego, Meachem recorded only 14 catches for 207 yards and two TDs. The Chargers signed him as part of a plan to replace Vincent Jackson, which is one of the many reasons A.J. Smith was let go as the general manager. Meachem has the skills to be a stud receiver in the NFL. He proved that while with New Orleans. He’ll be one of the many competing for a starting role in this new offense.
Wide receiver: Keenan Allen
With there being no clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver, I may as well mention this rookie. Allen was a star athlete on a terrible Cal football team. In his sophomore season, Allen caught 98 passes and recorded 1,343 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, Allen’s numbers fell to 61 receptions and 737 yards, while still maintaining six TDs.
Tight end: Antonio Gates
A big toe has never frustrated so many fantasy owners. In 2009, Gates caught almost 80 passes, totaled over 1,100 yards, and eight TDs. His yards have slipped every year since, but he’s averaged eight scores a season. Gates will probably never be an elite tight end ever again, but he isn’t terrible either. He was 13th among fantasy TEs last year with 144 points and seventh in 2010 (183 points).
Placekicker: Nick Novak
Novak helped erase some bad memories Nate Kaeding left in Chargers’ fans’ minds by making 90 percent of his field goals last year. Even with that accuracy, Novak finished 31st out of all fantasy kickers. In 2011, he was 10th among kickers with 138 fantasy points. With the new offense, he might be worth your last pick.
Playoff drought aside, the Chargers defense has actually been quite productive. Last season, they finished ninth in team defense (5,223 total yards allowed) and eighth in fantasy points with 153 points (six points shy of the top five). In the offseason, San Diego added Dwight Freeney and drafted Manti Te’o.
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